Life story

Life Story: Fidow Boxing Gym founder pioneered Christchurch’s Samoan community

O le ala i le pule, o le tautua – the path to leadership is through service.

OBITUARY: Few people can claim to have had the stamina – let alone have reached the required age – to have had amateur and professional sports careers in two countries and more than 60 years as a coach and administrator.

Lolesio (Lole) Fidow, born in Samoa, who died on April 19 at the age of 93, achieved this honor and won widespread respect for guiding the lives and sporting careers of hundreds of young Canterbury boxers.

Fidow’s Gym has been part of the Canterbury boxing scene since 1962.

The name of the gymnasium suggests that one person started it, but it was best known as the base of three Fidows: Lole – the older brother and the first of the Fidow family to settle in Christchurch; Lovino (Alex) – an adept pro-boxer of his time; and the late Simi (Jimmy), cousin of Lole and Alex and another clever pugilist.

* Olympic boxer Brian Maunsell, a champion in the ring and a gentleman in life
* Christchurch champion boxing trainer Peter Bell selflessly trained aspiring fighters in his backyard gym

Now known as Alex Fidow’s Gym, the boxing club continues vicariously, today in Woolston, with 83-year-old Alex still coaching.

Lole Fidow was considered by former New Zealand decathlon champion Sua Mene Mene to be one of the “pioneers” of the Samoan community in Christchurch.

In the early 1950s, Lole Fidow and his wife, the late Patricia Theresa Crichton-Te’o, decided he should move from their home in Apia, Samoa to Christchurch. The plan was for him to settle down before sending his wife and two daughters – Flo and Anna – to join him.

Christchurch in the early 1950s was a gray post-war city, English in design and culture, and half its present size. Fidow became absorbed in his work – for a time at the Lane Walker Rudkin factory, and later in the metal industry. His English was limited and the culture was different, but his commitment and diligence served him well. He was thus able to regularly send funds to Samoa to help his parents, his wife and his children.

One by one, various Fidow siblings moved to Christchurch, each helping the newcomers. The Fidow family is now well established in Christchurch with the third generation growing up. Prominent Samoan families – notably the Seinafo family – are aiga (cousins, uncles, aunts, etc.). Keep an eye on Linwood’s senior rugby team roster.

Fidow, left, and his brother Alex ran a boxing gym that started in 1962 and still operates in Christchurch today.


Fidow, left, and his brother Alex ran a boxing gym that started in 1962 and still operates in Christchurch today.

Lole Fidow settled in Linwood, just outside the CBD, and her daughters attended nearby Catholic schools. His youngest daughter, Anna Marie Lucas, who returned from the United States for her father’s funeral, recalled that her father and uncles trained boxers – hundreds of boys – while raising her and her sister.

“The gym has always been part of our lives. Still. But dad still made time for us. Ana recalled Lole cycling alongside her while racing her from their Hereford St home in Linwood to Hagley Park. He then oversaw a fitness program that eventually led her to success in every sport she turned to – track and field, softball, and basketball. “He knew what he was doing when it came to fitness,” she said.

Fidow’s contemporaries of around six decades have recalled his sporting evolution from boxer to trainer.

Very few people still around can claim to have watched any of his professional performances from 1955 to 1962, but there is no doubt that he was an excellent exponent of the art and craft of boxing.

One of Fidow’s most memorable fights came in 1962 when he fought South Pacific light heavyweight champion Leweni Waqa for a £100 purse. Around 2,500 fans – reportedly the biggest crowd of boxers in Canterbury for 25 years – packed Canterbury Court. The lines were so long that a door opened and 200 spectators slipped in for free. Fidow fought valiantly, but suffered a cut above his eye in the second round. In the fourth round, he was so swollen that the referee stopped the fight and awarded Waqa a victory by technical knockout. Waqa was so highly rated that he went on to fight Jimmy Ellis, who won the world heavyweight championship in 1968.

Dion Murphy – national lightweight boxing champion in 1963, and undefeated in 17 professional outings – remembers many training sessions with Fidow. “Sparring with Lole was always enjoyable – very technical – each of us looking for openings, adjusting and evaluating”.

Famed boxing trainer Paul Fitzsimmons, former New Zealand and Australasian lightweight champion, says many top boxers, Lole Fidow included, train and/or train at Bob Palmer’s Gym and Crichton Cobbers . “When Dio [Murphy] and Lole was practicing, everyone was stopping and watching,” Fitzsimmons said. “The skill level and competitiveness were just stunning to watch from both of them.” The gymnasium erupted in cheers and applause each time the pair finished training. Murphy was in his prime in combat and Fidow 10 years his senior, but the older man’s boxing intelligence and fluidity were equally impressive.

Murphy and Fitzsimmons attested to Lole Fidow’s qualities as a coach who nurtured, cajoled and guided his proteges in a calm and measured manner.

Phil Shatford, coach of the New Zealand team for 16 years, also acknowledged that Fidow was a respected trainer who developed many good boxers. “Lole was one of the greatest gentlemen in sport.”

Fidow in Christchurch in his youth.


Fidow in Christchurch in his youth.

Canterbury Boxing Association stalwart Myra Barry – wife of the late Kevin Barry senior and mother of Kevin Barry Junior (former Lupesoliai trainer Joseph Parker) said: “Lole came from a proud boxing family and was widely respected in both in and out of the ring and was a trainer who certainly looked after his boxers.”Some of the trainers were grooming their boxers to be future world champions, but Lole was quietly saying ‘my boy is a good boy’.”

Both Lole and Alex Fidow were appointed to the Canterbury Boxing Coaches Association committee in 1965, quite possibly a first for Pasifika’s involvement with the South Island Sports Administration.

In her private life, Fidow dedicated her time to her daughters and extended family. Lole, Alex and her sister Nila Seinafo were a close-knit group who shared a passion for the church.

Renowned for his fitness regimen and clean living, Fidow neither smoked nor drank. He dabbled in club rugby, supporting a Christchurch senior B team and seemed to thrive on distance running. He ran around the island of Upolu in Samoa, to raise money to set up a Save the Children fund trust to help Samoan families send sick children to New Zealand for treatment and he also ran around the island of Savai’i to raise funds for the shelter. for the elderly in Mapuifagalele.

He never got a driver’s license – by choice – instead of cycling, walking or occasionally using public transport to get around. His cycling and walking in the local hills continued well into his 80s.

Sua Mene Mene, who came to Christchurch from Samoa in 1966, met Fidow several times. He remembers serving on the board of directors of the Pacific Business Trust when he reviewed applications from community organizations seeking funding or other assistance. “Lole frequently sought opportunities for his young boxers to gain apprenticeships in trades or he sought funds to help with equipment or fares for his young men.”

Fidow also showed her aroha to her grandchildren at every opportunity. His American grandson Andrei Lucas – a doctoral student at the University of San Diego – remembers: “My grandfather always challenged me. He always talked about politics. He asked me what I thought of things. He would say no matter what’s going on in the world, I should be a man of character. He was talking about social justice issues and he was emphasizing that I should always aim higher. That’s why I did my doctorate after my master’s degree.

“My brother always talks about that boy,” Alex Fidow said, nodding at Andrei.

Alex Fidow’s final comments reflected the views of everyone interviewed for this tribute.

“My brother was a good man, a humble man. He lived a simple life and was committed to showing his love to those around him in a calm and peaceful way. He tried to show young men how to behave, how to be proud of themselves, aim high and work hard – very hard.

Fidow is survived by her daughters Theresa Ah Tong (Flo) and Anna Lucas-Fidow (San Diego, USA), her sons-in-law Peter Ah Tong and Edgar Lucas, five grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, a family Crichton recomposed, five brothers and sisters, and several hundred good men.

Manuia lou malaga lau tofa Lolesio. Travel well, respected elder.

– By Taitu’uga Geoff Siave, with help from Anna Marie Lucas, Alex Fidow, Andrei Lucas, Sua Mene Mene, Dion Murphy, Paul Fitzsimmons, Phil Shatford, Myra Barry.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu was linked to the Fidow family. Family details have also been updated in the footnote. (Modified Sunday, May 15, 12:35 p.m.).

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